Out Of Zion's Hill

It is the Apocalypse and Earth is a dangerous place. Everyone is united under the Trinity that rules over all: the Emperor, the God and the Prophet, who protect everyone from the many perils that now run riot.

Only a few people refuse to succumb to their rule. These are a murderous gang of terrorists, known as the Apocalypse Apostles. They are convicted of every crime there is, including the worst crime of all: Christianity.

Luke, a fifteen year-old boy, lives in the IROC, a special society centred in Paris. When the entire IROC is brutally destroyed, Luke and a small gang of other teenagers are kidnapped by the Apostles. They think they have been handed a death sentence.

But the Apostles have a secret. In fact, everyone and everything has a secret or two up their sleeves at the End of the World...

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4. Chapter Three

Sam jumped up and raced out of the room. Luke had never seen him run so fast, and began to consider as he chased after him whether or not there was something else Sam would run for besides banana mousse.

Hugo was slumped against the door shivering. His face was white, and he was hyperventilating so fast that Luke thought he was going to die of oxygen starvation. Sam knelt down beside him to check that he was alright, whilst Luke slid open the slot, and stared out.

A single rheumy eyeball stared back at him. Bloodshot, with a single staring pupil, surrounded by a sickly iris, the colour of a diseased sea. The other eye was missing, with an empty socket home to a nest of maggots in its place. Black and yellow teeth, like a fence trampled by dinosaurs inhabited a cracked and slimy cave, which opened and let out the moan, along with a wave of bad breath that smelt of decay.

It was a moan of hopelessness and death, a moan like no moan ever moaned before. It promised no mercy, and the destruction of everything its single eyeball saw. It was the voice of pure evil. Luke had heard this once before. When the ground had split open at the Beginning of the End, and released these creatures, the fulfilment of every zombie movie and horror comic, into the world.

“Returned Dead,” Luke breathed.

“No!” yelled Sam.

“Yes!” sobbed Hugo.

“But… but,” Sam stuttered.

“No time for this now!” yelled Luke. “We’ve got to warn everyone.”

A hand slipped through the crack, knarled and ancient with the ages, long yellow, filthy talons reaching to grab anything, snaked with bloodless veins.

“Hugo! We need you to seal the door!” Luke screamed.

Hugo staggered to his feet. The poor boy was terrified. Every limb was shaking so fast that anyone would think he was having a fit. But he took a deep breath and stabbed down on the emergency control, before collapsing down into a muddled heap again.

Steel shutters came down over the doors, at least twice as thick as the door itself. The hand reaching through, which had just been about to open the door, was wrenched from its wrist and trapped, wriggling, under the brick like steel. The owner gave a muffled moan in protest. All through the colony, clangs and cries of surprise from the inhabitants announced that every possible entrance had been sealed.

Sam, who seemed to have recovered slightly from whatever was bothering him, pulled out his master phone. Master phones were devices to permit the holder to communicate with everything mechanical that could produce noise in their Colony. Sam’s voice, magnified a hundredfold, boomed across the stone passages.

“Attention! This is not a drill. This is Code Purple, I repeat, Code Purple. There are Returned Dead outside the door. Yes, I said Returned Dead. Everyone grab some food and blankets, or whatever, and get to the Stronghold immediately. If anyone has any means of contacting other Colonies, please use it to warn them. Returned Dead, Code Purple, Stronghold, anyone who can talk to other Colonies please do so immediately. Now!”

Sam slipped the phone away, and picked up Hugo in a fireman’s lift.

“Come on!” he shouted at Luke, who didn’t need to be told twice. The banging and scraping on the door was enough to do that. Plus the several moans now coming from outside, meaning that the first zombie had now been joined by some friends.

The cold pursued them along the passage as the armies of the dead yelled and kicked at the door. Through Luke’s head, as with everyone’s, thundered one thought.

Will they get in?

*************

The Stronghold was basically a large steel box sitting in a cave. It was made of the same material as the shutters, except it was ten times as thick. And it didn’t sit in the cave so much as it was the cave. The steel had been moulded to fit perfectly inside it. Strongholds were almost impenetrable. When the first one was invented at the beginning of the Prophet’s reign, it had been tested against landslides, wild elephants, and the occasional volcanic eruption. The prototype had held firm through everything. Because of this, every building or metropolis had one, like houses in the Second World War had Anderson Shelters. This was a wise decision, considering the dangers that lurked in the world. The Returned Dead were just one. Amongst others were the Legions of Locusts, the Fallen Stars and, of course, the Apocalypse Apostles.

The Ruby Colony’s Stronghold was big enough to fit all the members of the Colony, with plenty of room for sleeping, eating and walking. This was because the cave the Ruby Colony had its lower levels on was so enormous. It was said that the Daisy Colony in the Triumph District only just had enough room in its Stronghold for everyone to sit, whilst in the China Colony of the Greatness District, everyone had to stand.

Everyone was present and correct as Sam, Luke and Huge rushed in and banged the door behind them. Sam’s superior, James, was pacing up and down on the raised platform at one end, his red robes swirling out behind him like a butterfly unfolding its wings. James was the principal member for the IROC for the Ruby Colony. He was very tall, with a long, old-fashioned face. He always spoke and acted in a manner that was akin to the actions and speech of Edwardian earls and nobility. His inquisitive, burning green eyes looked up hopefully as Sam came in, and he brushed a strand of long brown hair out of them.

“Sam,” he said relieved, “Returned Dead. Are you sure?”

“Yes, sir,” Sam panted, sweat rolling down his forehead.

“Impossible!” yelled Jude. Luke was pleased to see that he’d lost all his swagger, and looked as if he might have just wet himself. “The IROC is protected from all the dangers of the outside!”

Sam looked at him with cold eyes. The banging was heard again from above.

“Do you hear that?” he hissed contemptuously. “That is the sound of a hundred bloodthirsty undead creatures trying to break in. If they succeed, they shall rip us to pieces, suck out our eyeballs and devour our still beating hearts. We’ll see how impossible it is then, shall we?”

Jude gulped and shrank away into a corner, trying to look like an ant playing hide and seek.

“He has got a point though,” James continued. “The IROC sealed the gates to the outside world a year ago. Nothing can get in.”

“Maybe they came with the Soldiers, sir,” a voice called out from somewhere in the middle of the crowd.

“Impossible again,” declared James. “Nothing can get in or out unless invited. Anything not invited and without the 666, which these creatures certainly are, is excluded. The minute they walk inside the Outer Gate, they fall into a snakepit and are devoured. I should know, it was my idea…”

“Ah yes, sir,” the same voice yelled, “but these things are already dead, aren’t they? So…”

“Will you be quiet?” whispered Sam. “I’m trying to listen.”

His ear was pressed against the edge of the box. Luke knelt and pushed his onto the steel wall as well. The monsters were still crashing against the doors in a desperate attempt to get in. Everyone fell deathly silent. The wailing and moaning, the grunting and groaning, the thuds and bumps, the stench of decay, which penetrated even the Stronghold through the corridors. Everyone crouched in terror, listening with terrified ears for the noise they wanted to hear least: the rising of the shutters. Fear ruled in the whole Strength District for about half an hour. Mindless fear walked every street in the persons of these terrible creatures from the depths of hell. Every breath was a rasping roar to the horrified people crouching in their Strongholds. Every noise was a signal to their predators, a huge shout of “Come and get me!” It would have been so easy just to step outside and end it all, give yourself up so that you wouldn’t have to suffer another second of this.

Then a terrible scream wrenched the air. The inhuman scream of a person who knows they’re about to die. And die horribly. And there was nothing more horrible than death at the hands of these nightmares from the pits of chaos.

The clanging immediately stopped, and was replaced by scuffling feet as the Returned Dead scrambled off to feast on their prey. Everyone breathed a deep sigh of relief.

“Right!” barked James, regaining his authority within a millisecond. “Hugo, Amelia, Augusta, go and reverse the emergency measures, and check if those things really have gone. Mark, Archie, Beau, check the defences, and find any potential weak spots. Oscar, Tabitha, Henry…”

This went on for a few minutes, as James listed everyone in the Ruby Colony and gave them instructions, until he finally came to, “Edith, Agnes, Luke, check the generators. It’s been a long time since anything this big happened to them. Go and check if they can last us the week before new cells come. Sam, Nathan, June, Jude and Diana, with me!”

It took a while for everyone to hurry off to carry out their different instructions. For a few moments, even James had to steady himself. Everyone else was paralyzed with fear. Eventually, they all shook themselves and carried on. Luke raced to check the generators. But there was still a tension in the air. The thought was so loud it was practically a voice.

What if that happens again?

*************

The generators would be fine. The emergency system had used up a lot of power, but fortunately no one had used up too much power since the last delivery of batteries. They were down to a third of efficiency, but as long as not too much power was used before next week, then they should survive. Just.

Edith and Agnes promptly dropped everything and ran off when they were quite sure that their figures were correct. Pity, thought Luke.

Everything was present, ordinary and correct. Except for one thing.

Luke stuffed his hands into his pockets, and they came into contact with a piece of paper. There was something very odd about that piece of paper. Luke couldn’t quite put his finger on it. But then he realised.

Initially, he’d thought it had just been the order form for the water. But the Sordidus had stolen that, it had been tucked into his bag. So this was something else. He pulled it out and read it, with an ever growing fascination and horror.

“In the Beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the Word became flesh so we might be saved.”

It was a bit of Christian Scripture. And he was in possession of it.

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